Blindness, insight, and healing


All of today’s readings take up the theme of blindness and sight. In the first reading, nobody even thinks to look for David as the sons of Jesse are lined up to be chosen as king.  Eventually David is brought out of his hiddenness as the shepherd, and into the view of Samuel who anoints him.God tells Samuel that God sees the human heart and discerns its inner nature in ways that human beings do not. We pay attention to how the person appears from the outside, but God understands the complexities of human hearts from the inside.Though no one will know and understand David and his complex personality as well as God does, David becomes seen and known by others differently when he is anointed. God makes visible what was previously invisible.

Similarly, the Psalm speaks in the voice of a person who is treated to a banquet, in the sight of his foes, who do not understand his soul. God gives light in darkness, offers peace in times of distress, and restores reputation by spreading the feast before the beloved one, in the sight of all those who disparage him. When I read the lines about the banquet of the Lord, I think of the Eucharist, and the feast that is offered to all of us, sinners, imperfect people still growing and learning how to love. God sees the true nature of our hearts, as our “enemies” often do not, and his response to our trials and difficulties is to lavish gifts upon the beloved one.

Jesus’ healing of the blind man also is about sight and insight, at many different levels. Of course, there is the healing of physical sight. There are the many kinds of metaphorical blindness surrounding this event. The Pharisees are divided between recognizing Jesus as coming from God, and those who see him as against God because he does not follow the rules of the Sabbath in the way that they expect. The latter group is focused on rules and legalism instead of rejoicing in healing. They cannot see Jesus’ love is the fundamental reality of his ministry, and healing as more important than legalism. They even assume the blind man is blind due to some sort of a sin of his own. Even the parents are fearful and deflect criticism by throwing it back on their son to speak. They cannot see what is going on.

But two people in the story do see: the blind man given sight sees Jesus and understands that Jesus is the Messiah. He trusts in his own experience of the divine, even when those around him call it into question because it does not fit with their own categories. And Jesus sees: he sees the blind man not as a sinner but as a person in need of healing. God knows and loves the most interior spaces of the human heart, more like a mother or father who lovingly understands the missteps of a child than like a judge.

In Lent, we are like the blind man; we need to allow the Lord to heal us where we are in need of healing, and to ask God to help us to see where we need to see. We all have “blind spots” in our lives about others. This is a worthwhile topic for prayer, to ask the Lord to help us to see a new perspective on some situation–for example, we can imaginatively pray with the passage of the blind man, from his perspective. What does the Lord wish for us to see about this situation? We can ask the Lord to open our eyes and to let something further enter into our perspective.

Even if we do not come to understand another fully,  simply knowing this reality about our own limits of perspective can encourage us to give the other the benefit of the doubt: instead of assuming another is an enemy, assume the other is a person with a complex heart, trying to live out his or her life the best that she can at this moment. We are also called to be more like Jesus, who does not judge the human person by appearance, but rather seeks to know the human heart, to heal and to accompany.